I think most people in the world are under the impression that Australia is very White and very unforgiving to minorities. I mean, who can blame them right? We are known, amongst our white sandy beaches and iconic landmarks, as a country of racists – a fact that many people try to perpetuate instead of deny. Our media constantly erases most everyone that doesn’t have the trademark sun-kissed skin (God forbid you were actually born brown) and we nationally celebrate the day that our country was officially stolen from its Indigenous population. We still haven’t passed laws allowing same-sex marriage, we treat asylum seekers like criminals and we have so much conscious and unconscious bias, it’s kind of ridiculous. And worst of all, we are so complacent in letting it all happen.
My parents are migrants and Australia has provided us all a better life and for that, I will forever be thankful to the country that I will always call home. Saying this, the complete and utter lack of empathy for minorities, especially for Indigenous communities on Australia Day, is something I will never proud of. However, I’m ever the optimist, and so one thing I will be celebrating today is the efforts of the Australian publishing industry to get diverse books into teen hands. Yes, we still have a far way to go. But considering the lack of diversity in YA as a whole, I think we are doing pretty well so far. Whilst some of the books below are still on my TBR (which will be rectified very soon, I promise), some are ones that I have already read and greatly enjoyed – I hope this list is helpful and you find some good books because of it!
Randa Abdel – Fattah
Growing up in Western Sydney, the “ethnic hub” of NSW, I feel like I have been pretty sheltered to the wider racist views that exist in the Australia community – it only really became apparant to me once I started university. For that reason, When Michael Met Mina was such a powerful read for me and this book, which discusses casual racism, unconscious bias and hate speech, was really eye-opening. It was also really good at discussing the justifications that people use for racism and it’s definitely a must read for all.
Freedom Swimmer is a honest and powerful recount of two young boys as they grow up in Chairman Mao’s regime in China, dreaming of freedom and better days. Based off of her father’s life, Wai Chim delivers a book that, like When Michael Met Mina, wonderfully discusses the refugee/migrant identity – one that many Australians share.
I have been eyeing this book for the longest time because not only is it an Indigenous #ownvoices narrative, it’s also a dystopian and, as you all probably know, diverse YA dystopia is honestly a thing of myth. Set in an Australia three hundred years in the future, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf follows Ashala as she gets captured and is forced to succumb to a machine that pulls secrets from her mind. It sounds like a fast-paced, action-packed story and I’ve heard so many good things about it so I’m excited to get to it soon!
Although I have been told that The Sidekicks may potentially break your heart, it still sounds like a fantastic novel and one that I am planning on picking up in the next couple of days. It follows 3 boys who are all reeling from the death of their mutual best friend and more than just a standard contemporary, it is all about discovering who you really are and bouncing back when life makes a turn for the absolute worst.
Although I don’t deny the importance of “coming out” stories, I also really appreciate when authors choose to make their characters unapologetically gay. The Flywheel follows 16-year old Del as she tries to manage a cafe all by herself, deal with high school bullies, and pull decent grades – whilst also having to a battle a raging crush on the flamenco dancer across the road. A funny and just altogether inclusive book (THERE’S A SRI LANKAN AUSTRALIAN SIDE CHARACTER *dies*), The Flywheel is definitely a book that everyone should pick up.
Another addition to the often neglected diverse #LoveOzYa SFF category, Ida boasts a wonderfully diverse cast of characters – featuring biracial (Vietnamese/European) and LGBTQ+ (bisexual, genderfluid & transgender) representation. This books follows Ida who, because she can travel between parallel universe, can walk alternative paths at a time. The concept sound so intriguing and I can’t wait to pick this book up soon!
Sister Heart, written in the form of verse, is an emotional and poignant look into the tale of a young girl who was so viciously stolen from her family. Living in Australia, it is sometimes easy to be complacent about our bloody history – one that continues to have so many consequences for our Indigenous community today and so it’s stories like these that are so important. I am so looking forward to picking this book up – I’m sure it will be absolutely fantastic.
If there exists a South Asian YA book, I will find it. particularly if said South Asian YA Books is a) a fantasy or b) about arranged marriage. Although Promising Azra focuses more on the negative side of arranged marriage, it’s still an important book to have out there and I hope that it proves to be an accurate portrayal.
An emotional, impactful tale about selective mutism, The Things I Didn’t Say is a book that I’ve had on my radar for quite a long time. However, after enjoying A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard so much (another book featuring an MC with selective mutism), I am even more desperate to pick this book up!
As you can probably tell from this list already, I really enjoy books about migrants. I have grown up in a country that places so many misconceptions and so many stereotypes upon migrants and asylum seekers and to be honest, I am kind of done with it all. That’s why Cloudwish, which in particular focuses on the Australian treatment of migrants and asylum seekers (who are condemned so often by the wider media) stood out to me so much. Politics isn’t something that is too often brought up in YA and so this book helps fill a space that very much needs more attention.
I have read a shockingly small amount of books about people with life-long conditions like Cerebral Palsy and so I hope to rectify that with The Beauty is in the Walking. This book follows Jacob who, due to being sick of treated like he’s unable to take care of himself, tries to solve a crime that has wracked his small town. Also discussing issues of racism, this just sounds fantastic overall (also look at that cover *heart eyes*).
Not only is Oz YA winning in the diverse department, it’s also winning in the cover department because look how beautiful this book is. But anyway, I digress. This book is another #ownvoices Indigenous story and one that I am also very excited to read. Becoming Kirrali Lewis follows Kirrali who moves to away from her White adoptive parents to attend university and, in the process, meets her birth mother and father – sparking a revolution of sorts to her personal identity. University stories are always quite interesting to me and so this book, that also tackles issues of personal identity and racism, is one that I definitely want to get to soon.
There is so much wonderful talent in Australia and these are just but some of the books that I am excited for. Let me know if you have any other diverse #LoveOzYA recs down below!
Until next time,